Wednesday, August 15, 2018

{tips} planning a wedding

"A wedding planner is way cheaper than therapy would be." 

These are the words I uttered numerous times when my brain needed to start fathoming putting a wedding together. I am not a planner. In my day-to-day life, I work in Advertising, which means I have to plan for clients all day long. Once I leave work, the thought of planning anything - even a vacation - overwhelms me.

Once Brian and I found a venue that we wanted (the whole process of venue shopping is up there with wedding dress shopping), I started to look at photos that the Mt. Washington Mill Dye House was tagged in on Instagram and I found Adriana Marie Events and booked an appointment. Let me be clear - I did not have a private Pinterest board or saved up magazines for what I envisioned the wedding of my dreams to be, but the minute I saw Adriana's aesthetic, I knew she was the person I needed.  

We met, I fell in love, and we started planning. Did I plan to spend money on a planner? No. Did I have money saved for anything for the wedding? Nope. Did I know that this would likely be the best money I would spend over the course of the next year? Yes.

Adriana had three packages, and we chose the Tesla-version which included unlimited amount of calls/messages, she would handle ALL communications with vendors, she created a mood board for the day of (everything from color theme to flowers, to venue layout), she set up all of our details in Aisle Planner (the budget tracker alone made me giddy!!), helped me find people in the area to do my makeup and hair... every. single. detail.

Being new to Baltimore and not knowing much about the area, this guidance was very important to me. She knew the right florist for our vision. The right rental companies that trust her and created items just for our wedding. The right DJ. Had a great relationship already with our catering. Our amazing photographer that I never would have found on my own...

Most importantly, she was not pushy. The details were not about her, it was about our vision. If we pushed back on anything or asked her to change something (typically to save costs), at no point did she make it feel like we were being a bother. The morning of our wedding, when I gave her my grandparent's wedding topper that was gifted to us the night before by my uncle, she made sure to find a spot for it on the cake table.

I also worried about NOTHING the day of. Not even a little bit. If anything went wrong, vendors were late, things were missing, I honestly had (and have) no idea. We were able to pay attention to what was truly important to us - all of our friends, our family, and all of the details becoming a reality. 

She was just incredible. I don't just think of her as my wedding planner, I genuinely consider her as someone who will be in my life for a long time. Even if you are Type-A [raises hand] and need control, consider having this support.  

                            Adriana, my guardian angel, making sure every detail was perfect.

- - - 

Other things I learned.

Even if everything has gone as smoothly as possible up until just a month before, things can go wrong. 

For me, it with the hotel that I booked 3 months before the date. A new hotel opened up in Baltimore recently, and it reminded Brian and I of something out of NYC. We loved to grab cocktails there, and even stayed once for a one-night staycation. Knowing they had this stunning black + white room with three walls of naturally lighting, I booked the biggest suite they had, knowing this is where we wanted to get our "getting ready" photos + first look shots.

Unfortunately, this venue turned out to be a nightmare. We were getting married the weekend of The Preakness so we wanted to make sure these areas didn't have other events that morning. The hotel was uncommunicative with Adriana and when they finally were, they said unless we booked our event there, we can't take photos ("...your client can take photos in the room."). This was one month before our wedding. Every hotel in the area was booked up. 

Adriana shared images from the Cylburn Arboretum and met me there that weekend to do a walk through. It was better than the hotel, the whole place would be ours, and it was in the middle of a park so we'd have all the privacy we needed. Plan B was way better than Plan A. I WAS super stressed out when this happened, but I was reminded to go with the flow and became open to new things.

 Rachel getting the shot in the Cylburn Arboretum.

Don't not change your mind on something because you're worried about someone else's feelings.

This mainly had to do with my hair. The first trial that I had was not ideal. The hairstyle that I saw in the mirror was not anything like what I asked for/had photos of (I think I have PTSD from growing up in New Jersey with any level of teasing and volume), but we also did not connect. Why do you have to connect with someone? For me, I knew this person was going to be a part of one of the most special days in my life and I didn't want to feel like someone involved didn't like me (which is how I felt during the trial). 

My next/last trial was with Caitlin from Pretty Weird Beauty. I showed her a few looks that I was into and she said we had enough time to do all three. I honestly loved all of them - one slightly fanciful, one a bit more tailored, and one more vintage-inspired. Though I was leaning towards the last one, I had some time to figure out what I'd end up with, so I didn't worry about it for awhile.

The thing that shook me was when I went to pick up my dresses from alterations. It was hot that day so I just pulled my hair back wet into a bun with a center part, like I do majority of the time. When I put the dresses on and looked in the mirror, I knew this is what I wanted to look like the day of my wedding. To me, a lot of brides have a very similar look. The more I'd look to try and find a new hair style, the more I felt everyone looked the same and very different than they did in any other photo of themselves. When I would look back at the photos from the trial, I still liked them, but I didn't think I looked like myself.

About three weeks before the wedding, I was listening to an episode of Fat Mascara, and one of the hosts Jess said that she went through the same thing, and her advice was to do what you felt like you needed to. Seriously, guys. I was going to just go with one of the styles from the trial because I didn't want to annoy Caitlin!! You know what happened when I told her that I changed my mind and I just wanted it simply pulled back? "Sure! I can totally do that!" That's it.

All of these things may seem super obvious to you, but if you are like me and overthink everything and are always worried about what other people are going to think, these things can pile up and literally make you nuts. Just ask my bridesmaid Jenn how many times she had to remind me to make a the final decision on which dress she wore, vs. her...

On a budget? Cut the florals.

I love flowers. If I don't have fresh flowers in my house every week, I'm depressed. That said, when I saw the first version of the floral estimate, I almost passed out. We were renting all of the fixtures, so it wasn't like guests would even be able to bring them home, and the thought of spending that much and them being thrown out when all was said and done was not an option.

We already had a hanging chuppah made out of greenery planned for the ceremony, and a hanging fixture of greens over the dance floor, so we ended up cutting the flowers completely from the center of the two guest tables, and cut back on them for the main table. We simply replaced them with loose greens that were a nice balance for everything else that was going on. Not to mention that no one likely thought anything of it - definitely worth saving a few thousand dollars!!

A theme does not mean your wedding will feel like a Bat Mitzvah.

The first vacation/trip Brian and I took together was to Italy, both Milan and Venice. Since then, we've been back to Milan, we've been to Florence, and we've been to Lake Como. We wanted to get married in Italy originally, but because a lot of our family wouldn't make the trip, we wanted it to feel slightly like Italy. 

That didn't mean we were going to get an ice sculpture of the Duomo. What it meant was the colors were a bit rustic, our entire menu was Italian-inspired down to the olive oil cake (minus the crab cake, it's Maryland after all), we named each of the tables after the cities we went to (with custom illustrations of our favorite buildings on each), and we made sure our favorite cocktails were added to the menu - Aperol Spritz for her, Negroni for him. It's really less of a theme, and more of a "focus".

And guess what? The caterer team had a lot of fun creating the menu for us! They don't typically have a theme to go with, which I was actually pretty surprised by, so this was a new experience for them, too. They got to think out of the box, and I truly believe that that came through with every dish.

All Photography: Rachel May Photography

Day-of Calligraphy: Kelsie Malie Calligraphy
Catering: Copper Kitchen
Getting ready venue: Cylburn Arboretum
Venue for both ceremony + reception: Mt. Washington Mill Dye House

Sunday, August 12, 2018

{style} finding the right dress for your wedding

I was watching Iliza Shlesinger's Elder Millennial last week (for the second time in two weeks, go watch ladies) and one of her smaller narratives was around wedding dress shopping and how terrible it is.  Why I bring this up is for two reason. First, she's right. And two, she also talks about how women do not discuss this with each other. Why is this!?! Is it as simple as majority of women truly enjoy it??  Do women feel like they aren't allowed to be honest to others about it??

Well.  Here's my honest experience.

- - -

When I first went, I wanted to make it a "thing" and have my mother and mother-in-law come with me to a boutique in NYC and do a whole weekend together. One thing people don't talk about? How far in advance you need to book an appointment.  I do not plan in advance, so when I tried to book this two or three weeks in advance, NOTHING was available at the "top" boutiques, so I made an appointment where I could. Fine.

When I first walked in, I was scared, quite frankly.  Seeing wedding dresses that hundreds of women have likely tried on, questionable fabric, puffy silhouettes... it was my nightmare.  That said, when I spoke with my stylist and told her what I am looking for, she was pretty spot on when she brought multiple dresses into the dressing room for me - lace, long sleeved versions, low backs...

The first dress I tried on was a long sleeve number.  Before the stylist came in to pin the dress, I stood at myself looking in the mirror feeling like I was a little girl again trying on my mother's clothes. This very "adult" dress, just hanging on me.  How are women supposed to buy a dress that is (likely) too big on them, or way too small because these stores have just one size!!  

Here's the next thing that happened. I walked out of the room to show my mothers the dress and their lack of awe broke my heart. I wasn't walking out with confidence that I liked parts of the dress and/or that this dress was not terrible for the first one, but I was walking out hoping for a specific reaction that I did NOT receive. This happened the whole time. I would walk out focused less on how I felt, but more about "the reaction".  I did find a beautiful Pronovias option, but again, with the edits that I wanted to make to it (actually in my size, adding floating lace to make long sleeves), how was I supposed to drop over $4k on a dress that I would "hope" would be perfect when it was in my size?

Here's what I did next, and likely something that not many people do.  When I was next in NYC for a work trip, I made a last minute appointment at BHLDN. To go by myself. 

When you book your appointment, you are able to share which dresses you are interested in, but you are not limited to just trying those dresses on. You are also able to try on your size (or maybe one size variation) because BHLDN is off the rack. The stylist I had here had the dresses I requested, and she let me walk around and pick anything else I wanted to try.

I probably had around ten dresses in the (beautiful and roomy) room to try over the course of  the next hour and here's the key difference I had - because I was by myself, I was focused. If I put on a dress and it didn't feel right or I hated the silhouette, I had her help me out of it. I didn't trot around and see what anyone else thought, I allowed myself the time to "feel" without pressure.  

There was one dress that I knew I needed. It was a simple c - short sleeves, embellishment around the waist, and a low v-neck back. It wasn't THE dress, but I knew I needed it and decided "well, why not have two dresses" and this became my reception dress.  

Going into all of this, I knew I wanted something classic.  For me that meant no puffiness or a ton of bedazzling, and instead lace, subtle detailing, and I wanted my back to be the star of the show (since I am clearly small chested).  This Eddy K Carson dress had all of these things. The lace was beautiful (a lot of lace at both low and high price points look cheap, in my opinion) and I loved the way the edges were built around the lace and was not a harsh line.  The back was open, but had these beautiful satin floating buttons going down from the back of my neck.  The front was sexy, but not too revealing (to be honest, there was more padding in this dress than I wanted, and I had the seamstress at Green & Blue Studio remove it). It fit like a glove, and the only thing I wanted to do with it was add a belt to it to break up the full lace body and define my waist.

But, I didn't want to get this one right away, because while I did this research part by myself, I knew I wanted my mom to be there when I said "yes".  So I came back with her a few weeks later, tried it on, CONFIDENTLY walked out to her, put on the veil, turned around with a bit of swag, and saw my mom's eyes tear up. When I asked her what she thought, she said "it's everything you have been looking for". It was the perfect moment for us to share.  

Not to mention that when Brian saw me for our first look, he was blown away and said "it's perfect for you". [heart melts]

The moral of my personal story is this... do what you feel comfortable doing in this journey if you haven't gone through it yet.  

When I see shows like Say Yes To The Dress, I am horrified to see how opinionated friends & family can be, and I hope I never pushed any of my own friends like this (if I did, girls, please forgive me).  This moment, and your wedding day, is about you.  Make sure you take care of yourself throughout the journey and trust your gut.  YOU are going to look back at your photos many, many times, not them.  And my hope for you is that you are able to smile when you look at those photos, not wish things were different because you questioned yourself in the slightest bit because someone else's voice was louder than your own. 

My Wardrobe:
JewelryBen-Amun Spire earrings, Tiffany & Co. wedding band, heirloom rings
Alterations: Green & Blue Studio (DC)

Cylburn Arboretum (getting ready photos)
Mt. Washington Mill Dye House (ceremony & reception)

If you want tips for your future husband, Brian did his own post here.

{life} hello. it's me.

It's been two years. Instead of apologizing like I used to, apologizing for not writing, saying I will be better... I'm going to be real and say at this very moment, I want to do more and go back to sharing things I love. We'll see where that takes us.

The last two years have been a whirlwind. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some of these changes...  

I fell in love.  
We went back to Tulum.
I moved from NYC to Baltimore.  
I started a new job (still in Advertising).  
I FINALLY got to Barcelona (has been #1 on my bucket list since forever).
I went to the Women's March in Washington DC.
We got engaged.  
I tagged along to Brian's trip to Lake Como.
We went back to Tulum, 3x's a charm!!
We became an aunt and uncle to my sister's sweetest little boy.  
We moved into a townhouse (why not do this while planning a wedding!).  
We got married in Baltimore.  
We honeymooned in Paris.  

Monday, April 4, 2016

{style} Madewell x Daryl K Flare Jeans

Let's talk about this whole flare trend.

These things come back about every three or so years and up until two months ago, I always said no. Not because I don't like them. But because I'm pretty sure I wore super flares (had three washes) every day through the 7th and 8th grade. Thank you, Wet Seal discount. You could say I have been out-flared. My mother also used to tell me that if you wore a trend when it was originally "out", you are probably too old when it comes back a second time. 

While that probably used to be true, trends are not the same as they once were. Every other season the 70's and 90's are back. Same with the military trend. And jewel-tones. And the high-waist (thank you). So the notion of "been there done that" seems a bit watered down now with a quickly evolving (or maybe un-evolving) fashion cycle.

With that, and there being cocktails on the ready, I found myself being pulled to these Madewell x Daryl K flares (on sale now) at the collab's launch party. I think one of the first designer pieces that I ever purchased in high school (on clearance, relax mom) was this great blue Daryl K spaghetti strap tank, so it was a mix of fond memories. Sometimes, a little trip down memory lane is OK.

Also, Madewell seems to have this automatic lift affect for the butt area that is pretty remarkable. So there's that, too.

photos: Brian

Here's an extra tip: bring the old jeans that you don't wear anymore into any Madewell store and you get $20 towards a new pair! Your old jeans are actually recycled to make housing insulation.